Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lemon-Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd

Saturday mornings are very sacred to me. The 5:00am work alarm clock is turned off. I can enjoy my morning cup of coffee in a real coffee cup-- instead of a travel mug. I can read the morning paper and chat with my husband.


Most Saturday mornings, breakfast consists of homemade granola with yogurt or a bowl of oatmeal. But, once in a while, I break away from catching up on emails to make pancakes.  The men in my life love American pancakes. I'm a little more international, because I love Cheese Blintzes  and Swedish pancakes (but they take more work).

Perish the thought of using boxed pancake mix.  This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare--tops!
If you've never added ricotta cheese to pancake batter, strap yourself in.  These are moist and tender, and remind me of a hybrid of my beloved cheese blintzes and pancakes.

Adding lemon zest and juice is optional except for us. We love lemon!

But, when you have frozen blueberries, the combination sounded too good to pass up.  Before I began cooking the pancakes, I whipped up a batch of  Easy Perfect Lemon Curd-- that took about 10 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Add the berries, and wait for bubbles to appear...then carefully flip them over.

 Holler for the family to gather around the breakfast table..

You can serve these with pure maple syrup, but the lemon curd is a delicious twist on pancakes.

TASTING NOTES: One very simple word-- Delicious.  Tender, billowy, citrus-y breakfast. Blueberries and lemon are a perfect combination.  Raspberries and lemon go great together, too. When our Meyer lemon tree starts to give us fruit, I'm going to make and can a few jars of this lemon curd. It's so easy to make that you'll never buy it again. 

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.  If, for some reason, you can't view it, just click here.  

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cafe Tacuba-Style Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (Rick Bayless)

I've been on a cookbook diet, for at least a year. I don't mean Diet Cookbooks. I mean that I'm resisting the urge to buy too many cookbooks.  That's not easy to do, because I love cookbooks. 
My collection has, over the years, taken over Craig's teak bookcase. (I don't think he's too amused by that.)

Today, is an exception, because it's time to add a Rick Bayless Cookbook to my carefully chosen collection. I love Mexican food (no surprise, given my father's heritage) and this recipe was outstanding-- and different than the more traditional red enchiladas.  Thanks to Kim at "Stirring the Pot", she has been cooking, and sharing Rick Bayless recipes for the last five months-- and I have been drooling over all of them.  This particular recipe caught my attention, because Kim says, "This recipe, for Cafe Tacuba-Style Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, is hands down my favorite Rick Bayless recipe from the whole five month period."  Now, that's a good recommendation!

The sauce has a blend of fresh spinach and Poblano peppers, and is blended with milk and chicken stock into a silky white and green sauce.   Only recently, have I discovered how easy it is to char, peel and chop Poblanos (sometimes labeled as Pasilla Peppers), when I made Chicken-& Cheddar Stuffed Poblano Peppers.

You can do this directly onto a gas burner, but I found that placing them in a cast-iron skillet, under the broiler worked great.  Cover them with plastic wrap and let them sweat a bit-- and the peels come right off.  If you're afraid these peppers might be too hot, they aren't. They're very mild, in fact.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Berry Pie with a French Pastry Pie Crust

Pie. This is my husband's favorite dessert. Olallieberry Pie is his favorite pie.  He's been known to, ahem, devour an entire pie over the course of a few days.   The funny thing is, with the exception of pumpkin pie, I'm not a huge fan of pie crust.  I'd rather make "crisps" by filling ramekins with pie filling and topping it with an oatmeal,flour,  brown sugar, (and sometimes added nuts) and butter topping. Sublime.

Rolling out pie dough, surprisingly, can be therapeutic for me.  I finally mastered the art of making successful pie crusts-- learning the secret of working with cold ingredients and not overworking the dough.

I thank America's Test Kitchen for showing me how to keep pie crust dough from tearing and sticking, and how to easily drape it on a rolling pie and to unfurl it over a mound of pie filling. Easy Peasy, right?  Wrong.  At least, that's what happened with this pie crust recipe.

I'm always looking for new variations of pie/tart dough.  I chose this recipe, because it uses shortening (which pie experts swear is the ingredient to use for tender crusts).  A traditional American pie crusts uses lard or shortening, water and flour.  This variation adds one egg, sugar and white vinegar, and promises to be easy to work with and very tender to enjoy.

I have a pastry cutter, but my food processor makes pie crusting preparation a snap.  Once it's pulsed together, I press it into shape, divide it, place it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour.

I am addicted to listening to audio books, while I'm in the kitchen (or cleaning the house, or commuting to work).   I was engrossed into listening to a story, and began to work with this pie dough.  I'm not gonna lie, but this pie crust had plenty of challenges.  It's soft, despite that I had chilled it for a while. It began to crack... a lot.  I'd try to drape it over my rolling pin and it would disintegrate.

Son: "Mom, are you okay?"
Mom: "Why do you ask"? 
Son: "You sounded like you had G-Rated tourettes. You were kinda cussing up a storm."


I had to resort to rolling the dough on parchment paper, then lift the whole thing up (mutter a prayer of both forgiveness and hope) and flipped the whole thing into the pie plate.  Still I had to patch up the crust-- so, if anyone has encountered similar challenges, please share any tips with me!

I baked this pie for our Labor Day barbecue.  I live just minutes away from Driscolls Berries, so I can buy fresh berries way past summer. (Lucky me, I know. ) I decided to make a berry mix of fresh blueberries, raspberries and blackberries-- but, wait!

We have frozen olallieberries, that were grown in our own backyard.

With that said, you can bake berry pies year-round, because frozen berries work just as well as fresh-- you don't even need to thaw them before baking.

Have you ever baked a fruit pie, and the filling runs out after you cut into the first slice?  I've used cornstarch and tapioca, which does the job well.  My favorite ingredient is Instant ClearJel, that I order online with King Arthur flour.  I find that cornstarch kinda of "clouds" the look of the baked filling.

I no longer need to measure when I'm making fruit pie filling, and have gotten better at eye-balling how much to use.  With this pie I used one pint, each, of fresh berries-- with the exception of the frozen olallieberries.  I like to add the zest of one small lemon, and the juice.  Because olallieberries can be a bit tart, I whisked together 3/4 cup sugar, and five tablespoons of ClearJel-- adjust the sugar according to the sweetness of the berries.  (If I didn't have ClearJel, I would use about 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch or tapioca.)  Gently toss all the ingredients and set aside.

Once I won the pie crust battle, I piled in the prepared berries, and dotted the fruit with small pats of unsalted butter.

Place the top layer of pie crust, crimp and trim and then I like to brush on an egg wash and dust with sprinkling sugar-- for a crunchy texture.

 Place the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown.

It's not easy to get my boys to refrain from cutting into the pie, while still warm.  However, the pie filling has to "set" or it will become a river of sugar, sweet deliciousness.

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the moment of truth-- the pie filling has set. Yay!  Now, for the crust tasting...

TASTING NOTES:  Despite my frustrations with how fragile the pie dough was to work's definitely very tender and delicious. I used Butter-Flavor Crisco, because that's what I had on hand. The vinegar was not detected, in any way.  Here I am, a self-proclaimed, non-fan of pie crusts, and I ate every single bite.   As for the berry filling-- it tasted like summer, with a perfect balance of sweet and tart.  You cannot taste the lemon, but it adds that lovely brightness in the background.

This pie lasted for one day.  The next day, I returned for a second slice-- and the pie pan was in the sink. Empty.  Sigh.

Ah, but  Pumpkin Season is so close!  While I'm sad to say goodbye to the last of our garden tomatoes and basil, I'm looking forward to making soups, stews and home baked bread.  Oh, and I'm sure I'll be making a pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving.  But, first, I want to make Cathy's Glazed Apple Pie Bars-- they look perfect for Fall!

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Peachy KeenBars (with cream cheese)

I've got some serious recipe posting catchup to do! Morphing into a "weekend blogger" means that I have a backup of recipes to share. Like this one, from a month ago.

 Fresh peach season is quickly fizzling out.  Thank goodness I've made my year's supply of  Spiced Peach-Ginger jam.  I had a few peaches left and I debated on what to make with them.  I always love a good peach cobbler.   Buuuuuuuuuuut, Pinterest reeled me in to make this recipe.

Peach and cream cheese? Um, yeah! In an unusual twist, for me, this recipe uses a boxed Yellow Cake Mix.  (Do I hear hissing?)  I know, I know... I'm usually  a big fan of making scratch cakes.  Once in a while, though, I'll reach for a box of Duncan Hines Cake mixes.  Gotta love 'em for their convenience-- like when you're going to a dinner-- and you offer to bring dessert and realize that work has drained most of your energy.

The recipe also used canned peaches. I didn't have any, so I improvised and lightly poached some peeled, fresh sliced peaches in some water.  Since I had a jar of Vanilla Bean Paste, I decided to add a teaspoon to the mix, and then tossed in a cinnamon stick.  Why not? It sort of made up for my cake mix short cut, right?

 After poaching them for a few minutes, I drained them and reserved the liquid.

One box of yellow cake mix goes into a bowl. Add some melted butter and an egg and mix with a fork.

Press half the mixture into a prepared baking pan, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. In the meantime,   blend one brick of cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and egg.

Blend, until creamy.  I gotta tell you about this OXO Good Grips Egg Beater. I love it, especially when I don't feel like setting up my stand mixer.  It's great for mixing up small batches of whipped cream, too.

I thought that the cream cheese mixture was a wee bit thick, so I added about 1/4 cup of the reserved peach water (plus, I hoped to add a little more peach flavor).

Layer the peaches, and then evenly pour the cream cheese on top and spread out to the edges.

Add the reserved crumbs and sprinkle on top: Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Our friends are used to my bring desserts with one slice missing.  This is all for photography purposes (and quality control)!

Other than my taking the time to peel and poach the peaches, this comes together super fast.

TASTING NOTES:   My own opinion-- this is super sweet.   The rest of my guests liked this dessert, but it is also very rich.  A little goes a long way.  I think some lightly sweetened whipped cream would be perfect on top.  I would make this again, and I'll try using some cherry pie filling-- however, I'm going to try making this Yellow Cake Mix, from scratch.

For a potluck, it's an easy dessert to make.   It'll definitely scratch that sweet tooth itch, too.

So, is it too late in the season to post a Strawberry-Rhubarb crisp recipe that I made?  I can't believe that Fall is almost here!

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Slow-Grilled Smoky Beef Brisket with Beer-Based Mopping Sauce and Homemade BBQ Sauce

Ohmygosh! I almost forgot about sharing this recipe that my husband made, back in May. Today, is the "unofficial" end of summer, in our part of the hemisphere. Though, I'm not so sure I'm going to play by the rules.

(Pssssssst. I wear white after Labor Day.)  We are known to grill in October and November. We can, still, buy fresh strawberries in September.   Our Weber grill doesn't get it's winter cover for at least another month, so we shall continue to grill

There's a local restaurant that serves excellent brisket, according to my husband.  It reminds him of his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.  They slowly grill beef brisket, over oak wood-- nice and slow, for 15-20 hours.  It's served with sauce on the side, and Craig gauges the quality of smoked brisket by the "smoke rings".

While my husband is the first to admit that he's not a cook, he has done a fine job of learning how to grill.  We give all the credit to this book:

The step-by-step photos has helped the two of us to better understand how to use our Weber grill, how to use indirect heat and how to work with wood chips, to create that smokey flavor that we've come to love so much.
Because of the size of our brisket, this took close to three hours to make (the recipe said 4-5 hours), but it's worth the effort.  I made the rub in the recipe from this book.  (If you want more details on how we use indirect heat, for grilling, click here.)  I decided to make a beer-based mopping sauce, to keep the meat moist as it slow cooked.  We mopped the brisket about every 20-30 minutes. NOTE: This was our first time working with a mopping sauce.

We're not big fans of vinegar based sauces, but this mopping sauce was less "tart". The sauce has beer, cider vinegar, water, vegetable oil, BBQ dry rub, Worcestershire sauce and coarsely ground pepper.

I finally had an excuse to use this BBQ accessory.

While the brisket was slow cooking, I decided to make a BBQ sauce to go with it.  I found the recipe here

The ingredients list sounded like it would be a good blend of savory, sweet and smokey.

As most barbecue sauce, we always begin with sauteed onions.  Here, we add bell peppers, chili and garlic powder.  We add ketchup and chili sauce...

Apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, lemon juice and honey...

Last, but not least, Maple Syrup (not pancake syrup).

A little bit smokey and sweet.  Ready to go.

Craig adds more coals, about every 45 minutes, which he pre-starts in the a chimney.  He also adds wood chips that have been soaked in water for at least 15 minutes. He pats the chips dry, so that they don't put out the coals. 

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